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Posted: 2 June 2021
By Alastair Lee

What we mean by 'better'

'Let's design better' is a catchy strap-line, and it reflects our ambition to contribute to a better world. But what do we mean by 'better'? And how does that influence our decisions about what to work on?

Select two or more

We need at least two ticks. Ideally three or four.

We think of ‘better’ from four different perspectives. We want to make things:

  • Better for clients
  • Better for users
  • Better for society
  • Better for the planet

Ideally we tick all four boxes. Three is good. Two is the minimum.

Better for clients

This is pretty much a given. We can usually help clients, (unless they just want a dev team that doesn’t ask questions). But we are particularly interested in:

  • Delivering more value, more efficiently. Better products or services, used by more people, delivered more efficiently, by happier, more fulfilled, teams. What client doesn’t want that? 🙂
  • Innovation. We are less excited by quick fixes and optimisation, than we are by helping organisations find new and sustainable ways to serve their customers and users.
  • Creating a user-centred culture. It’s one thing to deliver a user-centred product, it’s another to get whole organisations to start thinking in user-centred ways. We’re keen to help bring about that shift in approach and mindset.

Better for users

Again, this is table stakes. As user-centred designers, we can always improve the user experience, even just a little bit. But what really excites us is:

  • Meeting real, unmet needs. Can we uncover and clarify the unmet user needs that offer an opportunity to help people? Can we design solutions that meet those needs, and are feasible, and sustainable to deliver? This really is the core of what we do.
  • Designing the right experience. Yes, it’s about usability, and making stuff simpler and clearer. But it can also be about inspiring people, encouraging people, and developing a fruitful relationship with people through the interactions we design.

Better for society

This is where things get interesting. We want our work to contribute to a better society. But what would be better? Hmmm.

We don’t have all the answers. But as a starting point, we prefer to work on projects that in some way make society:

  • Fairer. Clearly, no one should be disadvantaged because of their race, gender, class or economic background. We like to work on projects that do their bit to reduce social inequalities.
  • More compassionate. Users are people, not rats responding to dopamine hits. We want to work on products and services that foster a better understanding of ourselves and others, and that take into account the wider consequences of what they offer and how they work.
  • Better informed. There’s too much noise and not enough signal. Opinions are becoming ever more polarised. Yet we have real, existential challenges to face (climate change, AI, pandemics). We prioritise projects concerned with truth and evidence, over opinions and hype.
  • Healthier. We want to help people get healthier, in mind and body. To reduce their consumption of unhealthy foods. To be more active, more mindful, more fulfilled and more content. We want no part in products and services that make that harder for people (junk food on demand, attention maximising apps).

Better for the planet

Yep. The time to act is now. It has been for the last 20 years. And as designers we need to light the path to better ways of living. Ideally our projects should support:

  • Lower emissions. Responsible travel. Reduced meat consumption. Switching to renewables. We’ve been working on projects with a leading commercial real estate sustainability consultancy and Octopus Energy, both focused on reducing carbon emissions.
  • Less waste. There really is ‘no excuse for single use’ plastic. Recycling rates are too low. Food waste is a major issue. We want to work on projects that help to solve these problems.
  • More biodiversity. We don’t want our work to contribute to destroying natural habitats and the extinction of species. And if we can, we want to reverse the trend.

So there we have it. A summary of what we mean by better, and the projects we want to be part of. This view is subject to change as we learn more, which we always aim to do.

We’d love to hear your thoughts @think__panda on the Twitter. Thanks for your attention.

Designing Better

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